Luminara Unduli's sacrifice on Geonosis was felt throughout the Jedi Order; it was an assassination of one of their own; a call for war.
Anakin and Barriss' message, and the warning from Luminara, had saved the lives of countless Jedi who had been en-route to rescue them. It was a case of the needs of the many out weighing the needs of the one and for many in the order; the trade was more than fair.
Yet, it was also a sacrifice many saw and envied as the ultimate form of sacrifice; to give one's life for friends. She'd been a well liked Master. At the time of her death, Master Yoda - having retrieved the clones from Kamino and entering orbit around Geonosis - launched an attack in an attempt to remove Count Dooku as a threat.
The attack failed, but exposed the Trade Federation and Separatist ties on Geonosis. It also revealed the Clone army of the Republic, led by Jedi, to be a devastating force.
Obi-Wan Kenobi never broached the subject of the strange bond between Barriss and Anakin with either of them on the trip back to Coruscant; he chose to ignore the Count's reference in favor of quiet meditation and contemplation, spending much time communing with the Force. He chose to trust his Padawan.
Anakin Skywalker was fitted with a prosthetic arm shortly after returning to Coruscant. Withdrawn, he'd spent much of his time alone learning to master the use of the new hand.
Barriss was called before a hastily assembled council where she was promoted to the rank of Jedi Knight for her bravery and skill during her confrontation with Count Dooku. Master Obi-Wan Kenobi had supported her Knighting in the place of her deceased Master, a motion that had been well received despite the similarity to his own strange Knighting ceremony.
Barriss, her Padawan braid gone, left the presence of the council to meditate on the matter only to find there were few places she could go that were secluded. Her chambers had once been shared by her Master and held memories of better times, before the war's beginning, and times that could never be again.
Mindful of the promises she'd made on Geonosis, to both her Master and to Anakin, she let the Force guide her steps and was unsurprised to find them leading back to him and the discussion they'd put off...
The room of a thousand fountains was the one place inside the Jedi Temple you could be surrounded by people and still hold a private discussion. The noise, while soothing, also had a dampening effect and one that would be essential for the delicate matter they needed to discuss.
Unable to see Anakin, she followed her instincts and found him tucked back into one of the corners. He was hunched over something in his lap instead of doing the exercises that the Jedi Healers had recommended. They'd been unable to recover his real hand and so he was learning to make do with the mechanical marvel they'd assigned him. He didn't hear her approach, her steps muffled by the fountains, but she wasn't the least surprised when he spoke without looking up.
"How'd things go with the council?"
"Your Master would say as expected."
"And what do you say?"
"They don't have another Master for me."
He looked up. "So what happens now?"
She shrugged. Having left her hood up and her head wrap firmly in place, Anakin wouldn't be able to see the difference in her hair cut. "Obi-Wan would say we trust in the Force."
Anakin regarded her with the first stirrings of alarm spreading through his gaze. "They can't very well send you to Agri-Corp; you're practically ready for your trials!"
Warmth spread through her at his words but she couldn't resist teasing him. "Are you going to plead my case for the council, Ani? Make them see things from your point of view?"
"I would!" He grinned at her but the mirth quickly faded. "You still didn't answer my question."
"Was there a question in there?" She folded her hands inside her robe, enjoying teasing him. Her Knighting was fresh enough he hadn't yet heard about it. "I didn't hear one."
"For someone who's about to be stripped of a fairly prestigious rank, you're taking it rather well."
"I never said I was going to be stripped of my rank."
"Then what are they doing with you? They're not-" He stared at her, his eyes widening. "Are they going to Knight you?"
Barriss reached into one pocket and stepped forward to drop the contents on the datapad in his lap. Anakin stared at it, his emotions flickering across his face before he could shield them. Pride. Joy. Envy. He gingerly reached down to scoop it up, running the long weave of hair through his fingers - the proof she was no longer a Padawan and now his senior in rank.
"Knighted. Past Tense. I may not have killed a Sith Lord, but I faced one and lived."
"Then why are you worried?" Anakin searched her face, catching the flicker of uncertainty he would have missed if he'd blinked. "Being a Knight is everything you wanted."
"Not everything." She met his gaze squarely. "And now I'm less open to exploring it than before."
"What do you mean?"
"You're a Padawan; I'm a Knight."
"You don't mean-"
"I'm afraid I do," her smile was sad. "We - I can't keep exploring whatever is between us, Anakin. If we're caught it means serious sanctions. We have a job to do now that we're at war, one that doesn't include discovering whatever it is that's built between us."
"I can't just turn it off, Barriss." Anakin looked pained, like she was putting a knife in his gut. "It's not that simple; this is bigger than either you or I."
"I know - which is why we can't pursue it right now."
"I don't understand," his words were frustrated, "you reached for me on Geonosis. We've been through so much and now you're turning your back on me. Why? What have I done?"
"You scare me."
Anakin stared at her, the datapad and cut length of her braid dangling from his hand as he leaned his elbows forward on his knees. Barriss finally caught a glimpse of what he was working on - a diagram for a custom built mechanical arm or perhaps how to modify the one he currently wore. His voice was devoid of emotion and dull when he spoke again, bringing her back from the momentary diversion.
"I scare you."
"You've taught me what it is to harness my natural potential, to move beyond the limits the Jedi placed on me and that's worrisome."
"How is reaching your full abilities worrisome?"
"It's the method. Emotions are controlled by Jedi for a reason. They're volatile and unpredictable. They can be used against you as we saw against Dooku. If you hadn't been worried about my safety, you could have fought him and won."
"And you'd be dead."
"Is that such a great sacrifice?"
Anakin was on his feet in a heartbeat, grasping her shoulders between his and giving her a shake. "Don't you ever ask me that! Ever! I'm sorry you lost your Master, but I'm not sorry she died instead of you. Padmé's death nearly crippled me, Barriss. You helped me through that, you helped me see beyond those dreams, to build new ones. I couldn't have done it, moved beyond that, without you."
"You're stronger than you give yourself credit for."
"I wish you were right."
He shook his head. "No. Your death would kill me."
"Don't push me away, Barriss. Don't shut me out. What's between us is bigger than us; you know it."
"That's why it's dangerous!" She pulled out of his grip with a glare. "Don't you see? If we were to pursue this, it could take us all sorts of dangerous places. You're a Padawan; I'm a Knight. Both of us would be expelled and exiled. Is that what you want?"
"No... no. But I don't want to lose you either."
Barriss inhaled deeply. "Are you expecting to die sometime soon, Anakin?"
"Hadn't planned on it."
"Neither do I. While we're both alive, whatever's grown between us will stay. Your Master and mine are proof of that."
"It's true. My Master told me so herself."
"But attachments are forbidden."
"To Padawans who do not understand the tenets of the code or how to avoid the pitfalls." She poked him in the chest. "Like you."
"So what are you proposing exactly?"
"Until you're Knighted there can't be anything more between us than there already is."
"Until I'm Knighted." He exhaled on a sigh. "And until then?"
"We keep in touch. We communicate. And I learn what Knights do when they don't yet have a Padawan."
"Is this what you want?"
"It's the way it has to be, Anakin."
"And the insistence of the Force? I crave your kiss, Barriss - your hands on my back or caressing my face. Even now I can feel it pushing me to act rashly."
"Control, Padawan Skywalker." She smiled faintly. "If nothing else, it will be good practice."
"Now you sound like my Master - and yours."
"I'll eventually be asked to pick a Padawan; you're good for practice until then."
"Joy. That's the second question you've been disinclined to answer."
"Until your Knighted-." she was starting to sound like a broken audio recording.
His eyes gleamed with intent. "And after I'm Knighted?"
A smile curved her lips before she could stop it. "If the bond between us is as strong and volatile as it is now, we'll discuss it."
"I look forward to that discussion, Barriss."
Unable to help herself she grasped his hand and squeezed. "So do I, Anakin."
Purpose lining every inch of his posture, Anakin lifted her hand to his lips and gently kissed the back of it. "Then I take my leave, Knight Offee, before I do something rash."
Barriss nodded, dismissing him, and Anakin moved beyond her to depart.
"Don't get yourself killed."
"With a promise like that, I intend to collect. May the Force be with you, Barriss."
"And you, Anakin."
She cocked her head at him.
"Congratulations. You earned it."
Author's Note: Yes, I know I left it open for a sequel. Yes, I know there's a lot of unanswered questions. There are two Vignettes that will go up shortly that are directly tied to this story. One is an Anakin and Obi-Wan Vignette, the other an Anakin and Barriss. Also, the bunnies are already breeding for an RotS AU... so much so, that I have notes and a basic timeline already... no idea when I'm going to start it though.
Thanks for reading everyone, huge thanks to a friend of mine, Brentus, for betaing the parts with Dooku and giving me some much needed insight to his character. Big thank you to all my readers, you guys have been just wonderful and a shout out to those who are reading and say I never kill anyone off - you know who you are - and I have to say this:
I just killed two major characters in the space of one story. How many more will it take? :p
*grin* Just kidding ;)
Thanks for reading guys, you've been an awesome audience!